Posts tagged “chicken”

Ari’s War Story: Chicken Run

Ari Nave is Principal at The King’s Indian.

My very first field research was in the north of Ghana along the Volta River north of Keta Krachi, trying to unpack the usage rights and other factors that enable the sustainable use of a common pool resource (in defiance of the tragedy of the commons).

The research was hard. I was isolated, lonely, and physically drained. No one in the village spoke English. They spoke primarily Ewe and I was communicating through an interpreter. I had a feeling that I was missing a lot of nuance and detail with the interpreter and had several discussions with him about my concern.

I was also sick as hell of eating fish stew with fufu or gari. For one thing, it was spicy as hell…so spicy that at every meal I had these convulsive hiccups. This hilarity may have endeared me to my host, but the diet was monotonous.

I had spotted guinea fowl wondering around the village. I asked my host family about it and they just laughed and said they are wild animals.

So I set my mind to catch one. That evening I watched as the guinea fowl hopped up a tree in the village. They used the same tree each night and seemed to jump up in a predictable pattern.

The next evening I was prepared. I had a long string for my trap. I tied a slip knot on one end and placed the snare on a protrusion of the trunk that was chest-height, a pivotal step on their journey up the tree.

The string was about 50 feet long and I ran the length straight to another tree that I hid behind.

The folks in the village just laughed at me, which they seemed to do with great frequency. But I was determined. Patiently, I waited.

As dusk fell the fowl made their way up the tree. When the third bird was on the spot I yanked as hard and fast as I could, while running in the opposite direction. And I had the little bastard. He flapped his wings and I reeled in the string, and soon had a plump guinea fowl in my hands. My host and all the other villagers came running at the commotion and now stood with jaw agape as I proudly displayed my bird.

I asked my host to put the bird in a basket and put a big rock on top to keep him secure. It was too late to cook them so I ate my mind-alteringly hot fish stew but with a content mind, thinking about the fowl I was going to eat for dinner the next night.

I woke up refreshed and optimistic. I gathered up my notebook, camera and tape recorder and headed out, but first stopped to gloat at my catch. To my dismay, it was gone. I shouted and my host came running over. “He has escaped in the night,” he explained by way of my interpreter. No way, I thought. The boulder was still on top of the basket. Someone stole my bird. When I voiced my opinion to him he shook his head and simply repeated the claim.

That night, I executed my hunt again, with equal success. This time, a larger group came out to watch my escapades and were equally surprised both by my technique and success. Again, I place the bird in the basket, this time adding another large rock on top.

The next morning, I woke with foreboding. I jumped out of bed and checked the basket. Stolen! I was pissed off. My host tried to placate me but I was having none of it. Arrogantly, I told him that I was going to complain to the head of the village. My host shook his head. He waved to me to follow him.

We walked toward the center of the village where the elder lived, ironically where the guinea fowl often congregated. Before we reached his compound, my host swooped down and picked up a guinea fowl with his hands! Of course I had tried this many times when I first got the notion to eat one, but ended up running around like a fool. He lifted the wing of the fowl and I could see a colored ribbon. “Each bird is owned by a family,” he told me. “There are no wild birds here.”

So I had captured a bird that was someone else’s property. I was confused as he had earlier told me they were wild animals. In the end, it turned out that he never thought I would be able to capture one, nor did he understand why I wanted to capture one. When I explained that, while I loved the fish stew, I wanted to expand my eating horizons, he laughed. “Just buy one from the neighbor and my daughter will cook it for you.”

So that afternoon I bought a fat guinea fowl and the daughter of my host prepared the most delicious ground-nut stew with him. To this day, I crave that stew. It was unlike anything I had before and better than anything I could have imagined. Although, it was still insanely spicy.

I felt a bit idiotic about the entire episode and it only reinforced to the folks in my village how odd I was. But it had one positive side-effect. People realized how little I understood about even the basics of their lives, and they began to be much less assumptive about my state of knowledge.

Note: A similar recipe is here.

Curating Consumption

More observations and stuff that Beth and Steve have assembled over the past few weeks.

Can’t get there from here
This is such a fundamental usability issue I have to think there’s something wrong with my iPad or the Kindle app. Which operation is not supported? Buying this book. That’s right…click on that inviting little link down there that says “Buy Now” and get this error. Okay, this is Amazon taking a swipe at Apple (“Mo way you’re getting 30% of our revenue for something on the Kindle!”) But I’m not sure the average user will get that. They’ve helpfully provided another link for me: “What? That Buy Now link that should take you to iTunes to purchase this book doesn’t work? Goodness! Well, how about you See details for this book in the Kindle Store!” Nope – no mas. That operation isn’t currently supported either. So two lovely, juicy links tempting me to buy this book with no way to act [Conceptual sidenote: This would be an ideal design for many vices if they could tempt you but never give you the ability to follow through…the beer that can’t be opened, or the hermetically sealed chocolate bar]. I imagine there’s a product team somewhere at Amazon scratching their heads wondering why sales aren’t tracking but see an astronomical number of clicks on their buy links.Hint: we users will keep clicking thinking we must be doing something wrong, thinking “surely both buy options aren’t dead ends”. When we realize that they are, we get frustrated and take our own stand, in this case simply not buying. /BT

Two is better than one?
In nearly every bathroom I’ve been in (in the US at least) there are at least two soap dispensers – one in use and the other over to the side like yesterday’s newspaper. They’re in all shapes and sizes, usually one (like this one) is discreetly attached to the sink while the other is mounted proudly on the wall. I’m guessing it was aesthetics that sold the sleek little bar peeking from the counter top, I just wonder how long it took for the folks who had to crawl under the sink and refill it to put up a silent revolt – leaving people to pump furiously at one sink, then another then another, to no avail – before management broke down and put the one on the wall. /BT

Too soon or too late?
Gangnam Style is the global sensation that ever your parents know about. I imagine the restaurant owners protest-too-much denial of cashing in on a (no doubt fleeting) trend by pointing to the district in Seoul over the song. But then why is the clucky poultry mascot doing such a distinctive little dance?

Update (June 2013) – Church’s Chicken in Canada is doing something similar (thanks, Mom!)!

The remote control that gives you a lecture in virtue
In a hotel in Melbourne, the staff have clearly become tired of people complaining. Sure it’s partly about delayed gratification but it’s also a well-understood usability problem when feedback is slower than we expect. If the elevator call light doesn’t go on, you’re going to hit it again. But the warm-up for hotel televisions is its own flavor of usability hell. Will the set turn on? Will an LED change color? And how quickly? Apparently this particular TV set is so far off of expectations than the solution was a lovely sticker appealing to your sense of decency. Whatever, that’s a multiple of 8 seconds I’ll never get back again. /SP

Act now, pay later: here come the offsets

Here’s a fascinating response to the recent culture skirmish that has erupted around Chick-fil-a. Just like you can purchase carbon offsets, spending money on something “good” to essentially atone for doing something “bad”, now there are chicken offsets.

I love the chicken sandwiches at Chick-fil-A. But I also like my gay-married friends and don’t like the guilt of indirectly supporting Chick-fil-A’s stance on gay rights. And I know there are lots of other people in the same boat. So I’ve started Every time you buy a chicken-sandwich meal at Chick-fil-A, you can buy an “offset” here. You can print out the receipt and demonstrate to your friends that the money you gave for LGBT youth more than compensates for the profits you put in Chick-fil-A’s coffers. $1 gets you 1 chicken-meal offset; $6 for ten offsets. We promise to send at least 90% of the proceeds (and will almost certainly send more than that) after our minimal expenses to It Gets Better and the Williams Institute. We promise your offsets will provide far more money to non-profits that support gays than buying a sandwich at Chick-fil-A ends up putting in the pockets of anti-gay-rights organizations.

If we are compelled to conflate politics and consumption then we should be able to extend this idea, and offset a lot more than carbon and chicken. What other offsets could there be for behaviors we want to pursue but wish to atone or adjust? Note that these aren’t penalties we use to punish what we don’t want, they are opt-in ways that we counteract our own choices.

I’ll start us off:

  • Bad driver offsets – cut someone off or tailgate, your offset contributes $5 to the state fund for uninsured drivers
  • Loud talker offsets – talk as loud as you want on your cellphone, wherever and whenever, and your offset will fund earplug distribution
  • Homeless avoidance offsets – if you ignore a homeless person begging on the street, your offset will help provide them with clean socks
  • Shark fin offsets – enjoy the delicious traditional soup and your offset helps pay for prosthetic fins and ocean-going rehabilitation
  • Date rape offsets – no means yes when your voluntary contribution provides counseling services and funds the distribution of the morning-after pill

Offensive, perhaps. Feel free to take on the logical and ethical fallacies in my argument here. Chicken offsets may be a good idea or it may be a bad idea. What do you think about it? And do you think this opens up a precedent that we are going to eventually regret? I’m conflicted, myself, and would be curious to hear other opinions.

Out and About: Steve in Barcelona (1 of 2)

I’m just back from a week in Barcelona for WebVisions, where I led a workshop on fieldwork, synthesis, and ideation, and gave a short talk about championing contextual research within your organization. I’ll be covering similar material coming up in a couple of months at WebVisions Chicago. Meanwhile, I had a bit of time to explore, and found Barcelona to be a beautiful and well-designed city. Here are some sample images, with more to follow in the next day or so (and the complete set on Flickr).

Bounty at La Boqueria market.

Pedestrian safety warning placed in context, as you step from the sidewalk into the street.

Obama British Africa Gin and Rum. Odd description here.

Stickers on the corrugated metal doors pulled down when a business is closed advertise what I assumed was a taxi services but in fact is for locksmiths. Why are locksmith services advertised with such verve?

Gaudi’s La Sagrada Fam??lia, under construction since 1882. Astonishing, even from the outside.

Known in the US as Ice Age: Continental Drift.

Marketing for something via Facebook.

A very modern cinema structure, down by the water, where all the buildings are new and ultra modern. While the whole place is a delicious mix of old and new, classic and modern, this area went just a bit too far into Mall. While this building is gorgeous, its siting and overall vibe is dehumanizing.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • The McGangBang: a McChicken Sandwich Inside a Double Cheeseburger – (via Kottke) Another awesome example of customers co-opting (or trying to) the corporation. It's a user-generated menu item and people are trying to order it by its (rather unpalatable) name and then documenting the results. Like the obscene Skittle comments on Twitter, this is people taking a brand (and an experience) and playing with it. And then using the Internet to bring energy to that small piece of celebratory rebellion. If we ever needed another example of the brand being created by the customers not the producers, this would be it.
  • Chinese Internet meme about Grass-Mud Horse is a form of social protest – An online phenomena features a mythical character is built on the name – in Chinese – sounding close to an obscenity, but presented as an innocent song (with some fable-like plot twists) that the censors (so far) can't/won't remove. “Its underlying tone is: I know you do not allow me to say certain things. See, I am completely cooperative, right?” the Beijing Film Academy professor and social critic Cui Weiping wrote in her own blog. “I am singing a cute children’s song — I am a grass-mud horse! Even though it is heard by the entire world, you can’t say I’ve broken the law.”

You can dress up a chicken, but it’s still a chicken

Chickens Suit is a conceptual art piece cum product that is as confusing as it is provocative

In the future, The ChickensSuit will outfit the old, familiar house chicken, and future clothes will naturally be offered in different sizes and available in the color combinations red-white, in each case the piece being inspired by the flags of the two countries, Japan and Austria, including one warm corduroy outfit, as well as two disguise versions: in camouflage or as hair fur.

Also see previous entry about tattoos on pigs.


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